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Faculty Focus Friday | Q&A with Dr. Nikki Jones, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Ashley Byrd

Faculty Focus Friday is a Q&A series that highlights individual faculty members in various academic programs around Spalding University. This week’s featured faculty member is Dr. V. Nikki Jones, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work. A new member of the Spalding faculty this academic year, Dr. Jones will teach in all of Spalding’s degree programs – the Bachelor of Science of Social Work, the Master of Social Work and the Doctor of Social Work. Dr. Jones holds a DSW from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, master’s degrees from the University Louisville (MS in Social Work with a specialization in couple and family therapy) and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (Public Administration), and a bachelor’s degree from UT-Chattanooga (political science major).

What do you like about working and teaching at Spalding? 

I like that Spalding University includes an inclusive community of people who value compassion and justice. For example, I wanted to work at Spalding because of the emphasis on restorative justice and the Collective Care Center. This work perfectly parallels my own interests.

However, my colleagues and our students in the School of Social Work (SoSW) are what I like most about working and teaching at Spalding. I like that I am a part of a team seriously committed to actualizing while simultaneously challenging our profession’s code of ethics. I enjoy and appreciate the vision and identity, as well as the culture of collaboration, within the SoSW. I recently taught my first cohort of SoSW students this past August/September. Their eagerness and passion was very refreshing.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK

What is your academic specialty, areas of expertise or research? 

My main research interests are health and culturally aware practices. I have published articles on social determinants of sleep disparity among non-majority groups, historical trauma and reparations for African American descendants of U.S. chattel slavery, and various issues impacting the LGBTQ community.

• I currently have two works in progress on a study that measured the relationship between sleep and discrimination among college students.

• I have two articles in review on reparations and one article in progress. One of the manuscripts explores using the restorative justice framework to evaluate the feasibility of reparations claims for African American descendants of U.S. chattel slavery. Restorative justice is a collectivist process to address and reconcile community or political wrongdoings. The second manuscript promotes social work advocacy for H.R. 40, which is a bill to establish the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans to examine remedies for slavery and discrimination. Social workers can play a pivotal role in advancing reparations as a social justice issue and a policy priority. Along with two colleagues, I am wrapping up a manuscript on a study conducted this past year that was designed to examine social workers’ attitudes toward reparations for African American descendants of chattel slavery. As a profession, social work is dedicated to empowerment of marginalized communities and upholds a mandate to advocate for social justice. As such, it is imperative to know how professional social workers perceive reparations.

• I have published a couple of articles on issues impacting the LGBT community. For example, I have examined whether age, net worth, education and employment offer protective buffers from psychosocial stress among African American gay women. I have evaluated the utility of existing scales to measure multiple minority stress, which involves the interconnectedness of gendered racism, microaggressions and LGBT minority stress, among African American gay women. Along with colleagues, I recently published an article that provides child welfare practitioners a framework to assist in the service of LGBT foster youth and considers implications for rural placements.

• My current and future research continues to center on decolonizing social work education and challenging anti-Blackness.

Why is the program you teach in a good option for students to consider? 

The School of Social Work is a great option for students to consider because our mission is to inspire and prepare social work practitioners to meet the needs of the times by promoting peace and justice, ethical practice, and service to the most vulnerable members of society.

We believe education is a transformative and communal process. Thus, we challenge the traditional banking model of education where students are passive recipients of knowledge and instead embrace our students as adult learners with life experiences that enrich the learning milieu. We are invested in student-centered learning, as well as challenging systemic issues that include – but are not limited to – anti-Black racism, heterosexism and ableism, etc. So, our social work program is a great option for those students who desire an academic space that recognizes intersecting systems of oppression and that social reform is not enough to create a more perfect union. As our chair, Dr. Cambron, often says, “We are here to dismantle systems.”

What is an example of a discussion topic, lecture, assignment, project, etc. in your class that you enjoy presenting or working with students on and that they have found engaging? 

I enjoy working with students on role-play assignments. As an active learning tool, role play permits increased meta-cognition, self-reflection, and empathetic understanding. I have found that once learners move past their initial nervousness, they really enjoy showcasing their skills through role play and receiving constructive feedback. I enjoy the process of role play: assigning a topic, observing learners creatively to demonstrate their skills, observing learners’ self-appraisals of their skills and hearing peer evaluations.

What is an interesting thing you have in your office?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I actually have not ever entered my office at Spalding. Still, the most interesting thing I would ever have in my office is a book, LOL.

Spalding’s mission is to meet the needs of the times, to emphasize service and to promote peace and justice. What is an example of how your teaching style, your research, your class or your curriculum is supporting the mission of Spalding? 

As an educator, I support Spalding’s mission because I value a collaborative community where students are co-creators in the learning process. I strive for an academic environment where students make connections across experiences, perspectives and disciplines. Further, a classroom environment infused with cultural awareness and social justice are two additional aspects of my teaching and learning. I explain to students that cultural awareness is not merely connecting with others based on similarities, but the ability to engage, value and connect around differences. I want my students to recognize that difference adds dimension (breadth and depth) to relationships. Also, social justice is a core value of the social work profession. Thus, I emphasize that micro, mezzo and macro practice are inherently intertwined. It is important that students recognize the unitary nature of social work in order to simultaneously address micro and macro issues. In short, social workers have a professional responsibility to consider social, economic and environmental forces that influence individuals, communities, organizations and groups. My primary teaching goal is to advance an active and inclusive educational experience that facilitates engagement in the learning process. Therefore, my teaching approach encourages students to assume ownership of their education, broaden their knowledge base to increase awareness and understanding, and develop self-awareness and reflection skills. I frequently combine brief lectures with interactive/active teaching strategies (e.g., brainstorming, think-pair-share, role plays, and problem-solving case discussions) and incorporate audio/video media to facilitate student engagement, analysis, and skill practice. I strive for a classroom environment where differences of opinion are not only freely exchanged but also supported by evidence and guided by social work ethics.

FACULTY FOCUS FRIDAY ARCHIVE | Read all our professor Q&A’s